Raise rice, onion and copra farmgate prices!
Farmgate prices of palay, onion and other local agricultural products continued to decline during the first quarter of 2019. This is due to the unimpeded importation of these products under trade liberalization.
Local palay prices were at P14/kilo in March, down from more or less P20/kilo last year. This is a direct consequence of the newly-enacted law on the liberalization of rice importation.
This will further impoverish farmers as local production costs (including seeds and pesticides), as well as land rent, remain high. Their plight will be further aggravated by the drought which is already devastating many rice-producing provinces.
In Nueva Ecija, the top onion-producing province, farmers’ produce are bought at P12-P15/kilo only. According to farmers, production costs reach up to P130,000 per hectare. To profit, they need to sell their yield at P30/kilo at least, or double the current price. More than 21,000 farmers grow onions on about 11,500 hectares of land in the area.
Meanwhile, in a dialogue with officials of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) last March 4, peasants from Southern Tagalog demanded that copra and coconut prices be raised, as well as wages of farm workers in coconut plantations. According to coconut farmers, the PCA should set copra prices at P50/kilo at the barrio level in the CALABARZON area, which is equal to copra prices in the region’s town centers such as Lucena City. They insisted that prices of whole coconuts be raised to P12/piece and farm wages to P300/day or for every 1,000 pieces of harvested coconut. They also demanded food aid for peasants most affected by low copra prices.
This year, copra prices in the region are at P12/kilo only or 66% lower compared to P38/kilo in 2017. Whole coconuts are bought at P3.60 to P4.70 per piece. Farm workers in coconut plantations earn P4-P7/day. There are around 20 million coconut farmers in the entire country.
In a related news, farmers protested in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City last March 21 to denounce expansion of plantations in the country. Instead of addressing the farmers’ need to increase production, the government is selling agricultural lands to foreign companies.